TiVo: Where Duplicity Spells Dividends

Here's a great business strategy: Ask your customers what they love about your product and then take it away! Beginning in March, TiVo will begin showing ads during recorded programs. And no, your remote will not save you; pop ups and company logos (see clarification below) will actually appear when you press fast forward. (That means you'll earn yourself a 4-second TiVo banner ad for every 30-second commercial you eliminate.) Opt in (then confirm your interest a second time) and the advertisement will download your contact info. Options to buy products directly ("couch commerce") will follow later in the year.

No doubt many TiVo users are likely to see this transgression as a form of betrayal. After all, selling ads represents a fundamental shift in the customer relationship. For years TiVo built its reputation and customer base on convenience and an ad-free environment. The company even ran commercials showing a TiVo maverick throwing an ad-funded network exec out the window. "See," they implied, dusting their hands. "This is what to do with money-hungry suits!"

But it seems those mavericks liked the view from that corner office. Or maybe it's just that those execs came climbing back in.

Further Clarifications! [11/20/04]
Just got off the phone with a member of TiVo's outside PR. Here's what we discussed:


  • TiVo will be serving up advertisements.
  • The advertisements will appear on recorded programs when you fast forward through commercials.
  • Advertisements will take the form of "small tags."
  • These tags will appear for about four seconds, or however long it takes to fast forward the commercial.
  • Users will be able to click the ad to learn more about the product or service.
  • Once they've clicked through, users can opt in and pass on their contact info.

This information represents two clarifications to the original blog.
A) Rather than banner ads, as I mentioned above, "small tags" will appear. Granted, not a big difference here, but worth noting.
B) The opt in process requires an additional step of confirmation.

With any luck, I'll follow up with another blog once I've spoken to TiVo headquarters next week. Got any questions for the folks at TiVo? Post them here and I'll be happy to pass them on... Meanwhile, follow the links for more on the public reaction to the news. And thanks for your responses!

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